Collegiate Entrepreneurship Part 1 – Innovative Idea to Mindset
4 minute read

This is the first installment of a three part series focused on college-age entrepreneurs throughout Vermont. 

Most of us envision college students poring over laptops and textbooks, or attending class – in person or remotely. But throughout Vermont, there are hundreds of students who are looking beyond the campus, forging a path and building something of their own. They are collegiate entrepreneurs, young innovators with a spark of an idea ready to be ignited into a marketable business. For that to happen, an in-depth, thoughtful process has to unfold, one that encompasses knowledge in finance and function, cash flow and confidence building, logistics and legal issues while continuing to nurture the imagination and passion that lights the way forward. 

The Starting Point recently sat down (virtually) with two University of Vermont (UVM) entrepreneurship majors who shared how their course work is preparing them for the next chapter. Seniors Priyanka Prakasha and Meg Scagnelli, both VtSBDC (Vermont Small Business Development Center) interns, were eager to share their experiences. Check out these excerpts from their interview with The Starting Point:

The Starting Point: How has your college experience contributed to your entrepreneurial mindset? 

Priyanka: Before attending college, when I thought of the word “entrepreneur,” I simply thought of someone who owns a business, but I’ve now come to learn that it’s so much more complex than that. There are so many important facets that go into successfully running a sustainable business. I’ve been shown this through my studies at UVM and my time here at VtSBDC. Last semester, I took a course on entrepreneurial family firms in which I had a chance to work closely with a family business that runs a music school for kids. Throughout the semester, my group and I interviewed the owners and developed a case analysis on the business with recommendations at the end. This experience and the course as a whole provided me with insight into how much planning truly goes into owning and managing a business.

Additionally, my time with VtSBDC last summer helped to nurture my entrepreneurial mindset. Assisting Sarah Kearns and John Antonucci with Jumpstart Collegiate was such a fulfilling experience for me. Meeting all of the participating college students around the state that were my age and that were starting these innovative and unique businesses was very inspiring. Their ideas were all so original and offered up creative solutions to real-life problems.

Meg: My college experience has pushed me to further the development of my entrepreneurial mindset and activate it in all that I do. During my three and a half years at the University of Vermont’s Grossman School of Business, I’ve evolved into an opportunity seeker. Through this, I’ve gained the understanding that discipline functions as the engine of this mindset, building a positive feedback loop of resiliency. I’m fortunate to be in an environment that strives for continuous growth and continuous improvement, values that speak to my motivation. I’ve been presented with opportunities to develop my entrepreneurial mindset at every corner of learning. 

In the classroom where I’m concentrating in marketing with a theme of entrepreneurship, I gain hands-on experience studying the core capabilities of idea generation, opportunity recognition and evaluation, resource acquisition, and entrepreneurial leadership. On campus, my passion for creating positive change and building meaningful engagement drives my work. As President of the Grossman Student Advisory Committee to the Dean and Marketing Executive of Women in Business, I’m constantly concerned with creating innovative initiatives to enhance the experience, connectivity, and support of the students in my school. Internships are another component of my college experience that have had an integral contribution to my entrepreneurial mindset. I have had three vastly different internships throughout my college career, but each was consistent in providing me with organizational awareness, allowing me to deliver independent work and original thinking, and enabling me to become a more proactive and adaptable learner. 

Entrepreneur Education & Outreach

Fortunately, those who take the leap into entrepreneurship do not have to go it alone. Family, faculty, and experienced mentors are excellent sources of support and feedback. There are also many organizations one can turn to for advice and guidance. For example, VtSBDC offers no-cost, one-on-one, experienced and accessible advising at every stage from startup to succession. Working alongside college students since its inception in 1992, VtSBDC is already an integral part of the state college system and hosted by Vermont Technical College. 

Physically being available on a college campus allows for an exchange of resources, networking, and marketing opportunities for students as well as small business owners. Added to the benefit of calling a college campus “home,” VtSBDC’s staff of certified advisors includes experts who specialize in collegiate entrepreneurship. VtSBDC area advisor for Addison County and statewide collegiate specialist, Sarah Kearns, has developed multi-layered educational outreach programs, workshops and events (in person and online) to enrich entrepreneur education for students and faculty members statewide.

How Does VtSBDC Help?

From the outset, VtSBDC advisors can help young entrepreneurs evaluate the viability of their idea so they can make informed decisions by asking themselves: Is there a business in my good idea? How do I start a business in Vermont? How do I fund my business?

Advisors meet one-on-one with students in person or online to brainstorm about marketing and business strategies. They are also available for classroom presentations (in person or virtually) and intensive preparation for pitch competitions. What’s more, VtSBDC advisors have connections to campus resources like Career Services and Entrepreneurship Club, as well as a vast network of community connections with partner organizations and small businesses throughout the state.

VtSBDC continues to expand and enhance programs directed toward collegiate entrepreneurship with even more connectivity underway for all colleges within the Vermont State Colleges system. Why? State Director Linda Rossi explains: 

“The students in our schools are the future entrepreneurs and employers in Vermont. We are dedicated to providing accessible, diverse programs that celebrate entrepreneurship, help students build a foundation in critical thinking and communication skills for their life-long careers, and introduce them to supportive resources and business leaders they can turn to right now and into the future.”

Looking for more? Check out our resources page or reach out to your regional advisor!

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